Intergovernmental Europe is broken

, by Georgia McKinson, Michael Vogtmann

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English]

Intergovernmental Europe is broken
Photo - © European Parliament / Flickr/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0-Lizenz

An incompetent Greek government of left and right populists are leading their country on the brink of disaster. An uncompromising, hard-hearted German government pushing it down. The problems around Europe are increasing: political instability in Europe’s neighbours, Russia’s aggressive foreign politics, non-stop refugee streams. However instead of solving the problems together, the current political class is leading the idea of Europe as absurdum- an inventory.

The parody of direct democracy with the referendum in Greece reveals the tactics of Alexis Tsipras and the delay of the negotiations until untimeliness as that what it is: the incompetence of a young charismatic government leader, who never before had political responsibility. His behaviour led to many politicians in Europe having lost their patience with Greece under which in turn the Greek population is suffering. Now efforts are made to “rescue” Greece again with a policy which for five years has been proving daily that it is not working. The Greek population is further pushed into misery and the debt level relative to GDP is going to increase despite austerity measures, because the GDP will shrink further. This austerity politics has decomposed Greek society, destabilised the country politically and thus made the election of Syriza possible. Nonetheless the Euro-group has imposed more of this politics on Greece, without allowing a debt cut despite the debt level for Greece being unbearable.

Great depression in infinite loop

The German Finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble plays an inglorious part. During the Euro-group conference he brings as first minister in an official setting the Grexit as a realistic scenario into the conversation. Thereby he confronted the Greek government with a scenario which in the current situation meant nothing less than the complete collapse of the banks, the state and economic order with a humanitarian crisis in Greece. This horror scenario made Tsipras accept measures which would lead to a humanitarian crisis which was less bad. Many families in Greece are dependent on the pension of their grandparents because of the high unemployment rate. A pension cut is equivalent to further impoverishment of these families. Apart from that it is a policy which the citizens with the election of Syriza and with the “No” in the referendum wanted to deselect. Greece has, like a private insolvent debtor, assigned its sovereignty to its creditors. After the current agreement one can certainly claim: Greece is not a Democracy anymore but rather a European protectorate.

A rift goes through Europe

However the tragedy goes far beyond Greece. On first sight it may appear that Germany has received a lot of support for its proposal of a Grexit. Many finance ministers showed themselves just as relentless as Wolfgang Schäuble. At the same time a distinct break is exposed between Germany and France, but also Italy. Matteo Renzi, who before the referendum in Greece proclaimed over Twitter, that a “No” would lead in the negotiations to a Grexit, explicitly attacked a week later Germany’s position. There is a gap between the opinions of the three biggest economies of the Eurozone and the founding members of the European Community, which cannot be ignored any longer. But also outside of the Eurozone German politics is confronted with rejection, so that the discussion about the Grexit or the harshness towards Greece eventually made a Brexit more probable.

No solidarity for anyone

Also beyond the Eurozone intergovernmental Europa is failing. The European Council has rarely found practical and acceptable solutions for the lingering problems of all member states. The reason for this is like in the Greece crisis, the national egotism of the individual protagonists. Thereby it is especially misconceived that the current problems threaten the Eurozone and the Union themselves. Refugee streams from Africa and the Middle East burst in to Greece and Italy. Many Politicians in the North and East of Europe refuse to show solidarity and take up a part of the asylum entitled refugees over a fair distribution key. Particularly tragic thereby is: With every failed summit a further erosion of solidarity occurs. When Poland or the Baltics next time ask for support when they feel threatened by a Russian show of muscles, the Italians will react with the same shrug of shoulders as the eastern Europeans reacted to the refugee stream. Everybody expects from Europe that it solves its problems but nobody wants to solve the problems of Europe.

Two alternatives for Europe

The current political class leads the European idea ad absurdum: A community is formed to solve big problems together. A community which leaves its members to deal with their problems alone makes no sense. This politics of national egotism can in last consequence lead to no other result than to a failure of the European idea. This national egoism can only be overcome when more power is given to supranational democratically legitimised levels, where politicians in the first line are obligated not only towards their citizens of their own nations but for the welfare of all EU-citizens. Jaques Delors said once: “Europe is like a bicycle, if it stops moving it will fall.” To spare the citizens from a future chaos those who are political responsible should bring up the courage to tell the citizens the truth. There are only two alternatives for the future of Europe: A European federal state or a nationally broken up Europe like it was in the first half of the 20th century. Latching onto the current interim solution is a provisional arrangement for fair weather that will not endure the crises which will come to Europe in the future and eventually the second alternative will occur. Therefore the plea of Francois Hollande must be taken seriously: Europe needs more integration to stay viable.

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